A Matthews-less lineup for the Leafs as they try to turn things around against the Jets

Well, it’s a probably a good thing it’s not a regular year because right now would be playoff time and something like this would sting a lot more…

Auston Matthews is OUT tonight against the Jets, head coach Sheldon Keefe confirms
Day-to-day issue, not something that is expected to keep him out long
Missing his fourth game of the season … Leafs won previous three, all against the Oilers @TSN_Edge
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) April 15, 2021

No Matthews isn’t a good thing, even if the results so far have been encouraging, but it should be noted that there is a very big difference between Connor Hellebucyk, and the Oilers nonsensical tandem of Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen. The Leafs could probably use the best goal scorer of this generation against the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, but all the wishing in the world doesn’t change the fact that we’re getting Adam Brooks instead.
In addition to the absence of Matthews, we are still waiting on the return of William Nylander, and the arrival of Nick Foligno. The update on Nylander would put him on track for this weekend, but that doesn’t really help the Leafs situation tonight.



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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Frederik Andersen making progress but won’t join the Leafs on the road trip

It’s probably not too much of a surprise that Andersen won’t join the Leafs on the road trip, as they are already in Winnipeg and it’s an awfully long bus ride there from Toronto, but in addition to missing Friday’s game against Winnipeg, Andersen also won’t be in Calgary on Sunday and Monday…

Sheldon Keefe said Frederik Andersen had follow up appointment today. The feedback is that he’s progressing well. #Leafs will continue to monitor him and reassess next week.
Won’t join Leafs on this trip.
— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) April 1, 2021

So this means a couple of things. First, progress is good, but progress can mean a lot of things.
Second, the earliest that the team will be back in Toronto with Andersen will be on Tuesday before their Wednesday game against Montreal. If the intention is to reassess him at that time, we can probably assume that Andersen won’t be in goal Wednesday either. That essentially means that if the Leafs want to get a look at Andersen in advance of the trade deadline to know the level he’s playing at it, it will Saturday the 10th against Ottawa. Given that it …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Mike Babcock ‘breaks his silence’, but do we want to listen?

By now, you have probably heard that former Leafs coach Mike Babcock “broke his silence” in an interview for The Athletic with Pierre LeBrun.

Mike Babcock breaks his silence. My interview with the former Toronto Maple Leafs head coach:https://t.co/iAP801tMyB
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) January 19, 2021

Conveniently, this silence breaking took place mere days ahead of Babcock’s debut as an analyst on NBC Sports. It’s been a while since I’ve witnessed such an obviously blatant attempt at an apology and redemption tour, and it’s heartening that many seem to feel the same way. That is to say – people aren’t really buying what Babcock is selling:

Dave Feschuk: Former Leafs coach Mike Babcock seems to be trying to position himself as a sympathetic figure. It’s not working https://t.co/fqJmecTbqj
— Toronto Star Sports (@StarSports) January 20, 2021

Now, obviously Mike Babcock has every right to share “his side” of the stories that have circulated about him: the Mitch Marner list incident, the allegations of verbal abuse and bullying from Johan Franzen. But the timing, in addition to the way Babcock chose to address these claims, leaves much to be desired, particularly if one is …

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Author: Mer / The Leafs Nation

Who is going to give the Leafs the toughest time this season?

The short answer is probably the Leafs. No one undoes the expectations of the Leafs quite like the Leafs, but we’ll try and answer this question a bit more seriously. After the first three games of the season it’s clear that there’s no such thing as a cake walk for Toronto, and if since they insist on doing things the hard way, it’s worth looking at who will be the toughest opponent for Toronto. Here’s what the TLN crew had to say about who will be the toughest of the Scotia North Division opponents.
Michael Mazzei
While this may be an overreaction to the first game, the Montreal Canadiens proved they will be a very tough opponent for the Leafs all season long. Never mind the fact that these two teams will face off nine more times, the Habs are a well built team that gave Toronto fits all game long. There’s no doubt the other teams will each present their own challenges, beating Montreal will be an accomplishment because they are not going to be an easy outing. Turns out the preseason hype surrounding that team was right all along.
Mark Norman
I …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Leafs by the Numbers: Zach Bogosian

Around this time last year, you probably wondered why Zach Bogosian managed to remain part of an NHL roster in spite of a lack of playing time and a decline in play. Regardless of what was the root cause of the regression, it appeared all but certain that he would see his hockey dreams end as a member of the Buffalo Sabres.
Following a lengthy dispute with the team that was capped off by a refusal to report to the Rochester Americans, the Sabres decided to release him and make Bogosian a free agent around the trade deadline. As if the stars aligned, he ended up signing with the Tampa Bay Lightning and found new life in his career. He even made his first appearance in the playoffs and helped his new team capture the Stanley Cup.
That’s why Bogosian’s number is 20.
It’s how many playoff games he appeared in for Lightning inside the bubble. To say he made the most of those games would be a massive understatement. You could even suggest that these contests are a big part of why he is paid $1 million to play for the Leafs.
In those 20 games, he recorded four …

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Author: Michael Mazzei / The Leafs Nation

The Blue Jays pick up Rafael Dolis’ option and decline Chase Anderson’s option

It’s Transaction Friday and we have ourselves probably the most predictable and least surprising move(s) of the off-season.

The Blue Jays announced on Friday that they would be picking up Rafael Dolis’ team option and that they would be declining Chase Anderson’s team option. Dolis will have a $1,500,000 salary in 2021 while Anderson will cost the team a $500,000 buyout. His salary would have been $9,500,000.

ROSTER UPDATE:
We’ve exercised our 2021 club option on RHP Rafael Dolis and declined our 2021 club option on RHP Chase Anderson. pic.twitter.com/ld4RWI5DgA
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) October 30, 2020

Bringing back Dolis at $1,500,000 is a no-brainer.
While he was a little jarring to watch at times with his slow pace and propensity to make counts go full, Dolis was a very effective arm in 2020. Across 24 appearances, Dolis posted a 1.50 ERA while striking out 11.6 batters per nine. The 5.3 walks per nine were a bit of a concern, though. Still, at $1,500,000, you can’t go wrong.
And, in the same vein, not bringing back Anderson at $9,500,000 was also a no-brainer.
Acquired last winter from the Milwaukee Brewers as a salary dump, Anderson was expected to be a swing-guy for the Blue Jays who could …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Blue Jays pull off a commanding win in Taijuan Walker’s debut

That was probably the cleanest, easiest win of the Blue Jays’ season so far. We joke about “Never In Doubt” when they edge out a sketchy win, but, earnestly, we were never in doubt on Saturday night.

Things worth mentioning…
It all started with Taijuan Walker, who made his Blue Jays debut after being acquired from the Seattle Mariners on Thursday. After missing the majority of the last two seasons due to injury, Walker has enjoyed a nice rebound so far in 2020, and, of course, the hope is that continues with Toronto as the team pushes for a playoff run. Walker came as advertised on Saturday, throwing the Orioles a fastball, sinker, cutter, splitter, and curveball combination. He worked with ease through six innings, allowing four hits and three walks while striking out four. The Orioles couldn’t manage to muster any hard contact off of Walker, as their hardest-hit ball off of him was a 92.0 mile-per-hour groundout off of the bat of Chance Sisco in the sixth inning.

After Walker worked through six innings on 92 pitches, he turned the ball over to the bullpen. Ryan Borucki worked a scoreless frame, surrendering just one hit, …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Eurotrip: Jesper Lindgren to MODO

It probably goes without saying that the Leafs are now looking at any and all options for finding European clubs for their players, and yesterday they found a landing spot for Jesper Lindgren with MODO.
From the MODO team site:
MODO Hockey can today announce that defender Jesper Lindgren has been contracted as a loan from the Toronto Maple Leafs organization. “We are very happy that” Jeppe “has clearly shown that he wants to return to MODO and this solution with Toronto is very good for us. As a player, he has clear top qualities as an offensive back, but has also taken big steps in his entire game in recent seasons “, comments MODO Hockey’s sports manager Fredrik Glader.
That puts Lindgren, Korshkov, and Lehtonen overseas so far, and it’s doubtful those will be the last, as hockey won’t resume in North America until December.
Lindgren wasn’t a standout in his year with the Marlies, and perhaps some extra hockey can get him on track to compete for a bigger role with the AHL club in December.
 

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Do we see Jack Campbell in Game Four?

It’s probably a tad ridiculous to talk about Game Four before we’ve even got a whiff of Game Three, but my business card says planner, so that’s kinda where my mind goes. You might have excitedly noticed the Leafs are going to play on both Thursday and Friday. Two days of Leafs hockey sounds great. The one part we haven’t dealt with from that is typically that means goaltenders are going to split the games. And now we head down the road of processing exactly what that means.
Why we should see Campbell
Hoping in the way back machine to 2013, we find a Eric Tulsky article explaining why starting goaltenders two nights in a row is never a good idea.
Give the full article a read, but here is a key takeaway…
 I did a similar study but restricting things to games where a team was on the second half of a back-to-back, so that we could compare the instances where they started a goalie who played in the game before to the instances where they started a rested goalie (data through Thursday’s games):
Team playing back-to-back
Games …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Leafs practice gives us first look at what the Muzzin-less lineup looks like

It’s probably not what anyone outside of what TLN writer Nick Barden wants, but for the time being, it looks like Martin Marincin will be in the lineup.

August 5 @MapleLeafs practice lines & defensive pairings:
Hyman–Matthews–MarnerNylander–Tavares–MikheyevRobertson–Kerfoot–KapanenClifford–Engvall–SpezzaJohnsson–Gauthier
Dermott–HollRielly–CeciMarincin–BarrieSandin–Liljegren
Andersen Campbell#LeafsForever
— Leafs PR (@LeafsPR) August 5, 2020

These pairings really seem to underline the importance of having Jake Muzzin in the lineup, so hopefully his recovery is speedy and the Leafs get him back for the next round, assuming they can make it past the Blue Jackets.
Before we look at the defensive pairings, we’ll acknowledge the forwards remain unchanged from how they finished game 2.
Now the pairings…
Rielly-Ceci
Strangely, this is still being listed as the second pairing by the Leafs. Likely pointing to the need to shelter them a bit more, but while it is fun to criticize Cody Ceci, it’s important to acknowledge the Leafs have allowed one goal in the past two games, and there is nothing to say that breaking up an established pairing …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation